Orange County Loses $4.9 Million Lawsuit Challenge In Juvenile Dependency Case

The County of Orange and the Orange County Social Services Agency is on the hook for a record-breaking $4.9 milliion dollar lawsuit judgment after the United States Supreme Court refused to hear their challenge, according to The Register’s County loses $4.9 million lawsuit challenge over lying social workers

Deanna Fogerty-Hardwick fought for 6 1/2 years to regain custody of her children after they were wrongfully removed. Two social workers lied in reports and statements to the juvenile court commissioner who presided over the case. A social worker threatened Fogerty-Hardwick that she would never see her children again unless she agreed with the allegations against her. Instead, Fogerty-Hardwick refused and bravely took her fight all the way to the SCOTUS.

Fogarty-Hardwick sued the county for wrongfully removing her children without making a finding of imminent danger or serious physical injury, interviewing her children without a parent present, keeping the children out of the home without cause; fabricating evidence to the court, and for failure to properly train employees about parents’ constitutional rights. A jury ruled in her favor and awarded her $4.9 million.

The County appealed and was slapped by the Court of Appeal in an opinion in which Justice William Bedsworth wrote, “the evidence adduced at trial obviously caused both the jury and the judge to conclude not only that something seriously wrong was done to Fogarty-Hardwick in this case, but also that the wrongful conduct was not an isolated incident.”

Bedsworth wrote, “Despite Fogarty-Hardwick’s complaints, and the concerns expressed by others about the handling of this dependency case, SSA did not investigate the situation or consider assigning different social workers to the matter. Neither of the social workers involved was disciplined. Instead, Vreeken was promoted to supervisor in 2001.”

Because the County chose to fight the case, the interest now brings the judgement to a near $10 million.

As a parent’s rights attorney, I represent parents in juvenile dependency cases in the trial courts and on appeal. In my experience, few social workers seem to understand the law, let alone have they ever been trained in parents’ constitutional rights. These trusted employees failed the Fogerty-Hardwick family and violated the sacred right of a parent to raise her children. But this case shows that the problem is far worse than a few bad apples at SSA. The failure of the department to train workers properly is apparent. Until there is proper training and a real consideration and honoring of parent’s rights, injustice is likely to pervade this broken system.


Lauren K Johnson is a parents’ rights attorney representing parents throughtout Southern California in juvenile court and on appeal. Call us today to discuss your family’s case.